Smarter than ants (part 2)

 

In yesterday’s blog post I stated that I think before discussing possible solutions to tragedies like what happened in Las Vegas, that we should agree that investing time in thoughtfully discussing the opportunities for minimizing the loss of life was of value.  If you disagree and think we should do nothing more than shrug our shoulders, build a memorial, and use the phrase #<insertcitynamehere>Strong for while then please read no further.

 

Too often in discussions like this we assume others have extreme positions and we fail to have an honest and thoughtful dialog where we really listen, compromise, and leverage our common ground.  So for the purposes of any responses to this post, please resist your urge make assumptions, call names, and behave like an idiot.  I will moderate comments if needed.  My friend Mike made a Facebook comment on my blog from yesterday about how he thinks open air events like the one in Las Vegas should be eliminated due to the inability to protect attendees from a vertical threat and how those wishing to do harm and commit mass casualties are paying attention.  As opposed to knee jerking and assuming here is another guy who does not want to change anything with guns, lets recognize that Mike makes a very valid point.  The landscape has changed and we need to adapt our safety protocols and update our thought process because somewhere out there right now there is someone planning to set a new “record”.  Physical security is a lot like computer security, we do our best to patch and be secure from the beginning but when something is exploited we need to update our defenses and mitigate for future variants.  Our approach going forward needs to be more comprehensive than just dealing with a weapon problem.  As an example, look around at your neighborhood school at how they have adapted their entrances and security protocols, and how kids now have practice code red drills and so on.  Sure, it is a sad that these are needed, but in reality those types of things save lives.  Sadly now we need to think differently about open air event gatherings and vertical threats.  I guess my point is that if you are still reading this, you would like to minimize the loss of life like what recently happened in Las Vegas and that is common with anyone else who may comment or offer an opinion so please be respectful.

I am not a gun owner but I would say it is not out of the realm of possibility that I will be someday.  I am not an expert on the second amendment, I am not a lawyer, I am not an extremist who wants to take everyone’s guns away; I am a self-defined tree hugger and my only political agenda is to get a revenue neutral Fee and Dividend policy implemented so the true costs of emissions are recognized and our planet has an opportunity to improve its health.  As it relates to this issue, my core belief is that we can do better, that we can find common ground and both “sides” can realize they are less far apart than they think and compromise.  I choose to use the following as a baseline for my thoughts on this topic:

  • The focus of any legal changes as it relates to weapons should focus on the problem.  The problem is not the hunter or sportsman, the problem is not the gun collector who has hundreds of guns, the problem is not the enthusiast who likes to shoot a variety of high powered and unique weapons in an appropriate place, the problem is not the person at the grocery store who you never knew had a permit for his/her concealed handgun; the problem we are trying to solve is people who thoughtfully plan mass murders.

  • There is no solution that will prevent every scenario and the goal of any new policy should be to increase the potential for preventing and minimizing the loss of life.  This is incredibly important to not lose sight of.

  • States should be allowed to add their own additional laws if they desire but there should be an updated baseline federal law.  If we leave this to the states it will only lead to a scenario similar to fireworks where I can simply drive to Wisconsin and get “real fireworks” and numerous other issues.

Given that, here are my current thoughts on a path forward in order from least to most complicated:

  • Bump stocks should be made illegal.  I had never heard of them before this week but my generic understanding is that they crudely make a semi-automatic rifle behave more like an automatic rifle.  Given that they are an accessory and not a weapon themselves, an argument could be made that legal changes to their status is not really protected under the second amendment.  Regardless, it appears as though this notion already has momentum so getting more specific on a path forward is in order.  The end goal of any legal changes to bump stocks should have a focus on making them more difficult to obtain.  I see a few options:

    • Bump stocks are declared illegal to purchase or sell going forward.  The ones in circulation today are left to die on the vine so to speak and they will be coveted by collectors and enthusiasts and the price of purchasing one will continue to increase.  Over time, less and less of them will function and continue to exist much like civilian owned machine guns did after 1986.  They could need to be legally registered or similar.

    • Bump stocks are declared illegal for civilians to own.  This gets a little more complicated but some sort of buyback program might incite some owners to turn them in but certainly some would remain in circulation.

  • High capacity magazines are reviewed.  Again, I am not an expert in this area but I think minimizing the amount of ammunition a weapon can fire without needing to be reloaded would increase the probability of saving lives in situations like this.  I am uncertain what a reasonable amount of ammunition is to have in a single magazine but my opinion is that for the average gun enthusiast and owner, this is not a huge inconvenience as long as the capacity compromise is reasonable.  Like bump stocks, a decision could be made to make them illegal to purchase or sell going forward or make them illegal and introduce some sort of buyback or similar to encourage a reduction in the current circulation.

  • Criminal background checks should be required for all firearms sales and they should be tracked.  Today licensed firearms dealers require an ID and leverage NICS but this does not cover other scenarios.  Today, if I were to go buy Sudafed I would need to swipe my drivers license.  If I were to drive to a dozen pharmacies and buy one box at each, some sort of alarm would go off somewhere and I would need to get an exception or follow a more rigid process to purchase in bulk.  I think a similar program could exist with firearms so that if someone were purchasing dozens of high powered rifles in a short period of time, a few questions would be asked to vet the person, their intent, and legitimize the purchases as appropriate.  The goal of the program would NOT be to eliminate the right to make bulk or consistent purchases, it would simply be to ensure those who were making the purchases were vetted and determined not to be an imminent threat much like with Sudafed where the goal is to ensure I am not a meth dealer.  This one would require some real compromise to accomplish.

    • Is there a way to ensure concerned gun owners that this is not a path towards some sort of national gun registry that will later be used to confiscate their guns or similar?  Can that be written in to law or somehow or an amenable compromise be made?  Given that Equifax cannot even secure our most prized financial and personal information, how would this data be secured and who would have access to it?  What would the criteria be that “triggered” an alert on purchases? Etc.  Many questions would need to be answered to gets folks on board but working through those specifics would be a valuable investment of time in my opinion.

It is an easy argument to make that if a bad person wants to do harm, they will find a way.  That is absolutely true but if we go back to my baseline statement that the goal of any new policy should be to increase the potential for minimizing the loss of life then this holds weight.  If someone has to jump through a few extra hoops or do unconventional things, then they are more likely to be caught or have the amount of damage they do diminished.  In turn, if law abiding citizens need to step through an extra hoop for the greater good, then so be it, we do it every day in many other scenarios.  Another common argument is that implementing anything like this leads down a slippery slope and that it will be the start of numerous other actions against gun owners.  I wonder if there is a way we can write something in to law to mitigate that fear or perhaps through thoughtful dialog that focuses on the areas most people find common ground, we can move past it.

That is it, those are my thoughts today.  I welcome your respectful ones and am genuinely interested in protecting the rights of gun owners while trying to add some common sense ways to decrease unnecessary bloodshed.

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Smarter than ants

 

After the recent hurricanes we heard Scott Pruitt and others talk about how now is not the time to be talking about climate change, how we should be focused on helping the people who need help.  After the devastating loss of life in Las Vegas many of our elected officials expressed the same sentiment related to talking about gun control.  These types of deflections and deferrals are incredibly frustrating.  With climate change enhanced storms, fires, floods, and mass shootings becoming common events; that deferral approach will never provide the time for real discussions, but perhaps that is the point.  If you kick over the sand on a sidewalk ant hill, the ants will immediately begin working to rebuild and fix their home.  They will not stop and ask themselves if there are any actions they could take that would improve the sustainability of their home nor put critical thought in to how to prevent further disruption.  As humans, we do stop and ask questions and this has led to countless advances in society that have increased our safety and lifespan.  If we had always taken the ant approach, our life expectancy would be like that of a caveman.

 

The other thing we as humans often do when domestic terrorism happens is shrug our shoulders with a sort of ‘oh well, if someone wants to do bad things they will find a way’ attitude.  This is absolutely true, but I strongly disagree with the complacency, dismissiveness, and acceptance of the statement.  Throughout history we have implemented countless new precautions and policies to help thwart and minimize the loss of life.  After the Oklahoma City bombing, federal buildings were modified so they are set back from the street, have blast resistant glass, are engineered so the floors do not collapse, and have cement flower planters or similar that prevent vehicles from getting too close.  After 9/11 there were countless security measures implemented to increase the safety of air travel.  So when it comes to gun violence, let’s try and find common ground and agree that exploring the opportunities for preventing and minimizing the loss of life is a valuable investment of time.  Once we have agreed on that, then we can move on to a more interesting dialog about what those potential solutions could be.  So whether it is fighting climate change, domestic terrorism, gun violence or anything that is a deep threat to life itself; let’s be smarter than ants.

 

Off topic: The 2nd amendment

There are a handful of issues that polarize our nation and become political issues which tend to divide party lines. Some examples are gay marriage, climate change, abortion, the death penalty, and healthcare. The second amendment is another example that is drawing a lot of attention due to the publicity of recent shootings. It states “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

On the extremes there are those that think guns have no place in society and those that think everyone should carry a gun everywhere. Most people live in reality and land somewhere in the middle. Recently, my Facebook feed has had countless postings roll through about how making meth and heroine illegal has not taken them off the streets so it will not work for guns; how we do not blame cars for drunk drivers so why do we blame guns; and likened Obama to Hitler because neither want you to own guns. While these might all be cute posts to some, they dramatically oversimplify the issue and misconstrue the solutions being proposed.

Reflecting on the 2nd amendment, the right to bear arms is infringed upon with some exceptions today. We cannot carry weapons on to a commercial flight, in to courtrooms, nor countless other businesses and offices. In addition, documented gang members, those previously convicted of gun violence crimes, terrorists, the mentally ill, etc. are faced with restrictions. As an example, should a documented gang member be allowed to legally purchase a gun upon their release from prison where they spent time for murder and carry it on to a commercial flight? If you think yes, you might as well stop reading now. If you think no, then you agree that the second amendment is worthy of some exceptions and establishing the specific details around when and how to impose restrictions is the key.

At different points in time, the NRA and other organizations have painted a picture of how if any gun controls are passed, law enforcement would be breaking in to homes to confiscate high ammunition magazines, assault rifles, and more. In 1995, the NRA characterization of the ATF as jack booted thugs and Nazi’s led to the resignation of membership by George H. W. Bush and others. This characterization on what gun control would mean lives on today. In reality, polls show that what most Americans want is simple; to see the gun show loophole closed.

On any given weekend, anyone can go any of the dozens of gun shows happening throughout the US and buy as many guns as they want with no background check and no registration. Closing this loophole is what the parents of Sandy Hook sought for legislation, it is how most of the guns used in the Columbine shooting were obtained and it seems like a common sense approach which is gun friendly. There is paperwork involved in buying a pet from the humane society, there are background checks for volunteering with youth sports, but there is nothing to prevent the previously referenced recently released convicted gang member from buying lots of guns.

Locally, schools in my area are working to pass referendums to get funding via tax increases to rebuild school entrances and add safety precautions for improving lockdown abilities during emergencies. My kids’ schools routinely practice code red lockdowns and that is a sad reality of the world we live in. Some extremists would argue we should arm school staff or similar but that is not the answer and it brings forth countless complications. Even in the recent Oregon school shootings, there were conceal and carry members on campus who heard the shooting and opted not to engage for fear of the pending SWAT team arriving and being confused and shooting them.

In America, our gun murder rate per capita is twenty times the average of other developed nations and five times more than the next closest (Italy). In 2007 Missouri ended a background check and handgun licensing program that had been in place for decades only to see a 25% increase in firearm homicides follow while homicides committed by other means in the state remained consistent. In 1995 Connecticut created a handgun permit system and extended background checks to private sales and has seen a 40% decrease in gun murders.

Let’s admit that we have a problem and can do better. It is true that closing the gun show loophole will not mitigate every scenario but it is a common sense approach to improving an abused gap without restricting 2nd amendment rights.